Swift, Celebrity, Stories and Sovereignty

Yes, I am a Swiftie. Unabashedly a Swiftie. Always have been, most likely always will. I’m loving the new song (total earworm!) and the video is a little bit of genius. It’s also gotten me thinking, which is what all art/social commentary should do, no?

Musician and singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt has spoken about the cult of celebrity for a few years now, how it has changed music makers from being artists to being commodities.  The face of music has changed so drastically in the last ten years that it’s becoming more and more difficult to express yourself musically, as an artist, rather than going for the superficial jugular of celebrity status. While I’m not saying that Taylor Swift has never sought celebrity, this clever woman has criticised it and examined it from many angles over the span of her career.

Taylor Swift’s most recent song and video, “Look What You Made Me Do“, is another critique of how people see her, based on assumptions made from the media, other artists, the haters and the Swifties alike. (She previously covered one assumption a few years back in her video, “Blank Space“, poking fun at the  media image of her being an over-emotional, co-dependent serial relationship junkie.) It’s a very good tongue-in-cheek look at the many personas that others have created for her, such as the leader of “The Squad” (a media reference to her circle of famous friends), her so-called “surprise face” when she wins awards, her “love” of playing the victim and more. Before the song was released, Taylor had wiped all social media, deleted all Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts, as well as having her website simply showing a black screen. It’s a very shrewd move, personally deleting everything that the media could interpret about her, which she knows as well as we do that it’s only a part of who she is, a representation of a facet of a person. No one is their Facebook or Twitter account.

Taylor Swift ReputationThe song and video also points out that we need to take responsibility in our lives, which includes personal and emotional responsibility. The title, “Look What You Made Me Do” is referencing that fact that we often blame others for so many things, which engenders a lack of personal responsibility when it comes to the art of basic living. We need to take responsibility back for ourselves, for our actions, our words, our thoughts and emotions. When we do so, we pull of the mask that allows us to stay in our wounded selves, and to fly free with the wings of freedom and sovereignty. The reaction of others to this, well, what can I say? Some may praise you for it, some may criticise, some may hate and some may love you for it. The title is also a comment on how the media have created and fabricated all these stories about her, making her as a media-created character do and say things that are completely false. Taylor Swift’s new album (available beginning of November) is called Reputation, is yet another examination of the power of story, and who is telling it, and to whom.

This year, on a pilgrimage to Glastonbury, I met with the goddess Bloedewedd at the White Spring. She cautioned me to choose the mask that I wish to present to the world, otherwise others would do it for me. As I was watching Taylor’s video, these words came back to me, reflecting that everyone needs to choose, otherwise the choices will be made for them. Some would argue that we should simply take off all masks, and I would agree with this statement up to a point. We need boundaries, and certain barriers in place for different situations.

When I am working in a professional capacity, I can’t be the silly goof that I am in my dance troupe, twerking in the middle of a choreography just to make the others laugh. When I am teaching, I can’t be the child running to the bottom of the garden in search of faeries, or seeing how much of the alphabet I can burp after several glasses of Prosecco. We have different masks, different hats that we wear in different situations, because I am a daughter, a wife, a Druid, an author, a dancer, a woman, a teacher, a friend, a sister, a lover. To some, I am even a challenge, an enemy, a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar, and more. While this may not be true, other people’s interpretation of me is something that I have very little control over. They may have their reasons for believing in the story that they hold of me, they may not. But we have to remember: it’s just a story.

What is important is that our story is something that we can be proud of. Not in order to impress others, but for ourselves, so that we can move forward and add to our story with honour and integrity. We can shake off other people’s perceptions of us, because we have very little control over that anyway. We can choose to not be commodified inasmuch as we are able, and to take the reins in our journey and guide ourselves towards the sovereignty and the story that we wish to fulfill. Only we know the truth of our story, the terrible lows and the glorious highs. Only we can choose to move forward with honesty and good self-examination, in order to achieve our goals and to live a life that’s more integrated, with deep and sustainable relationships.

I’m proud of my story.

And so is Taylor Swift.

 

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Loreena McKennitt – A Trio Performance

LM meme Ancient Muse (1)Loreena McKennitt, Caroline Lavelle and Brian Hughes were amazing, as always last Monday night! A wonderful performance, utterly magical. I laughed, I cried (I sobbed!), I was utterly enthralled (some songs I think I forgot to breathe). It was just brilliant, and lovely to see these talented folk on stage once again. It’s been five years since Loreena and her travelling troubadours have been to the UK, and I last saw her at the Barbican, promoting her album The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

The London Palladium is one of those old theatres that just oozes culture. It was the perfect setting for the ambient nature of this trio, intimate and yet wish a dash of indulgence. Sound quality, however, is not this theatre’s forte, and all sound had to be put through the speakers, which lost depth. The right-hand speaker couldn’t handle the piano’s low notes either and there was some crackling. There were some other hiccups in the show, and those little pixie mischiefs always happen in threes: a harp string breaking in the middle of Annachie Gordon (through which Loreena simply continued playing in true professionalism, playing around the broken string without missing a beat), a spotlight that kept going out, and forgetting the words to Greensleeves and the audience helping out! Their set list got changed radically after the broken harp string, and yet the concert still flowed beautifully. While changing the broken string, Loreena told extremely funny jokes, those long, funny, storytelling ones with a great punchline at the end. It was lovely, to see her humorous side that evening as well!

The emigration section was very powerful. With diary extracts from those at Grosse Isle in Quebec, tending to the Irish refugees, to Loreena’s own musings on her journey to discover the Celts, it really struck a chord (pardon the pun) within the hearts of all who attended. It was a history lesson, a musical journey and a spiritual experience.

Caroline Lavelle excelled that evening, on cello, recorder and squeezebox, as well as her soft, breathy background vocals. On the final song, her voice blended with Loreena’s so beautifully, I was utterly uplifted, and it was the best version of Full Circle that I have ever heard.

I was exhausted, emotionally, spiritually and physically after it, and am still kind of floating on the afterglow. Wonderful, awen in full flow. http://loreenamckennitt.com/ #loreenamckennitt

Loreena McKennitt on NPR

Suffering from a virus last week, and it’s subsequent manifestation as a stonker of a head cold this week, I haven’t been much use in the writing department, with a pounding head of thick fog and a need to just sit quiet, knit and listen to the people who are inspirational to me to lift me out of my self-misery.  Today I came across these two similar interviews with my favourite artist, Loreena McKennitt, on National Public Radio, which I thought I would share with you all.

Blessings,

J. x

Loreena McKennitt on NPR